Monday, August 29, 2011

What’s the VR F’ing Deal?

Pardon my English, but I can juggle a lot of shit. Or not. It’s the Just One Thing theory. If I can do just one thing, then I can VRF it.

Today I picked a bell pepper from my garden . . . a garden the size of a lit-pico. But I can VRF that. Harvested produce from model garden, again. Hey, but this time there were curious children around who asked whether my oh-so-not-sustainable MiracleGro SuperBloom was fertilizer. So I can VRF that, too. Sensibilization regarding the use of fertilizer to youth group.

I also went to the Poste to discover that my new checks had arrived. VRF read? Why, it’s part of my world map project – sensibilization regarding education and geography -- because when I asked Roland for my checks, I also reminded her that we were ready to begin painting the world map. Then I went to my bureau to put together the new portable moulin. VRF: Formation on moulin design and fabrication for community development with sensibilization on uses for milled soy. Good job! I also spent time talking to someone from the Ministry of Environment. We discussed the anniversary fair, whether to bring my association's honey, how honey is made, and educating women on producing honey. That is definitely VRFable . . . somehow.

I went to my laundry guy and ended-up speaking English with his new neighbor who makes batik with wax and wood carvings. Good Lord. I’m this close to Ghana and just now found a reliable friend who speaks English. I’m in love. But aside from that, I’ve got a new business partner to whom I can teach dying bessin (he doesn’t know how to do it -- I don't know how to spell it) and work on bookkeeping. That’s got VRF written all over it. I stopped at Sonnabel to pay the electric bill only to discover a line out the door since the office will be closed for two days due to Ramadan. Business management skills: don’t ask the client to pay 50cfa for the bike park when the client didn’t even enter the bureau.

In to the bank to exchange my ripped 5000 cfa for a crisp new bill. Business development and technical skills: discussion with bank manager regarding need/desire for service technician at ATM machine. I went to my tailor. My pants still aren’t finished; and while I’m in no rush, it’s been about five weeks. Five weeks?!? Let’s talk customer service. VRF: More business management skills sensibilizations.

Finally I bought a bottle of rum and some popcorn. I refused the Coke since it wasn’t cold . . . my village having been without electricity for over two days. Pouabizan, do something about that. And you guys need to sell straws! Business management and services: discussed new product lines, loss of sales and inventory during power outages, and saving program for generator.

I was home before 10:30, with a bottle of rum and the promise of two days off for Ramadan. And I’ve failed to mention the delivery of the Bike Tour letters to the Haut Commisaire, the Mayor, and the President of Club UNESCO. VRF: Discussion of gender and diversity.

But wait, there’s more. My bloody frigo is on the fritz again. So I removed the powders I keep in it (powdered sugar, cocoa, flour) and found two huge bags of vanilla protein powder. It smells so yummy. I took about 4 kilos of protein powder to Sada and suggested that she put two scoops in little sachets and sell it at the pump where she works . . . after first donating sample spoonfuls. We discussed possible uses and health benefits. Promoted women’s & children's health, discussed entrepreneurship and marketing techniques.
All this I did . . . on a morning without coffee. And if you can’t come up with a over a dozen ways to VRF your day, which, in terms of being a real-live PCV, was undoubtedly more productive than mine . . . OK, you know where this is going. I don't even have to say it, do I?

God, what I wouldn’t give for that pair of heels . . . and a straw. But I suppose I’d better suck it up and deal.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Side-Boobs for Self-Confidence

I'm wearing a halter top today. 
A full-on-cleavage-baring-open-back-sleeveless halter top 

Inside the holy confines of the PC Bureau.

Don't panic, I brought a scarf and cardigan to cover myself should any disapproving eyes peep into the IRC, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let this beautiful new halter-dress sit in a canteen for the next year of my life while I abide by the Bureau dress code.

When I received my "what to pack" list oh-so-very-long-ago it did not include a three-piece f'ing suit.  Why didn't anyone warn me that I'd be expected to wear business professional clothing while at the Bureau?  I didn't even wear business professional most days to my professional business job--and lord knows, this is NOT exactly a business professional environment we've subjected ourselves to.

Ou bien?

Closed-toed shoes at the Bureau.
Collared Shirts.
Dress Slacks.
Long, professional dresses and skirts.
NO tank tops.
NO "wife beaters"
NO tappettes.
NO form-fitting clothing.
NO beards.
NO stains.
NO tears.

This all seems perfectly reasonable, right?  On paper, yes.  In practice?  Completely impossible. 

WE LIVE IN THE BF.  Everything I own has turned a pastel shade of brown.  My shoes are in shreds.  My collared shirts have pit stains.  What appropriate clothing I have left is rapidly being destroyed by the red mud of rainy season. 

It seems to me that those who repeatedly lecture us forget just what our lifestyles are like... what used to be tragic accidents (small mustard stains on my favorite blazer, a broken heel on my best pumps) are now daily occcurrances on a macroscopic level.  Gone are the days of small stains that ruin a piece of clothing.  Now I have a streak of red splotches running up the back of my best collared shirt, a result of biking in the pouring rain.  There's a hole in the crotch of my dress slacks... yet another result of biking.

It also seems to me that those who lecture us repeatedly may not realize just how ugly we feel, almost all of the time.  I moved to Africa and became hideously ugly. The sun is aging me by the second.  My hair hasn't seen a good cut for a year.  Everyone stares at me, pokes at me, laughs at me.  My feet are the color of a septic tank, and no amount of scrubbing will return them to their natural hue. 

To top this off, my clothes are ugly.  All of them.  Even my pretty clothes have become ugly. 

So here I sit, in a brand new halter dress and, damnit, for the first time in 15 months I feel attractive (barely).  I will not sacrifice this small feeling of self confidence for any dress code.

Yes, that's right.  You can see my side boob. SUCK IT UP AND DEAL.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Build a bridge and get over it!"

Some words of the wise which are useful when the roads are flooded and impossible to cross here in the BF. Did your bus get stuck in the mud? Were you supposed to go somewhere?

Not anymore and you might even be asked to help dig the bus out of the mud. So I hope you wore something you are not too attached to, or at least not white because of the water. Don't worry about getting sick or hurt from being out in the rain trying to lift a hunk of junk out of what feels like quicksand or bringing rocks to put underneath a wheel to try to get it out, the people around you are not worried and they are TERRIFIED by rain. So, of course, suck it up and deal!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lotus: Don't Leave Home Without It

When I was first nominated to Sub Saharan Africa, I imagined no toilet paper. I believe it was my biggest fear. My American friends where horrified . . . asking if surely I couldn't improvise . . . maybe leaves and grass? Indeed, I was fully prepared for leaves and grass . . . hoping for the ability to astutely avoid any kin to poison ivy or sumac. Totally prepared for it . . . except for the 15 pounds of baby wipes that I packed. It was probably that last pack of -WetOnes that put me over the luggage weight limit. Right. Happily, we have the ubiquitous Lotus, hawked by every child in every gare in The B.F.

So, how familiar does this picture look? Right?! Don't look at me . . .  you ate it. You were expecting . . . what? Ever heard the expression in on schedule, out on schedule ? Non? Well, now you're gonna poop in a hole . . . though I'll concede that not all holes are created equally. I highly recommend the hole at the Bon Bonnerie. Paradisio has a decent hole. I prefer to avoid the facilities in any gare . . .Gare Routier being the absolute worst. But, hey, it's The B.F., and when called upon to do so, I can suck it up and deal! 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Advice from a Second Year

I'm so glad that our MSC is finished. This morning I'd be in no position to complete the quiz. You know what quiz and exactly what I'm talkin' about. Don't be coy here. I'm talking about the PCMO quiz with the answers of never, more than twice a month, daily, etc. 

It's nice to blame others for your problems. I blame Johnny Walker. Black. And EBJ . . . though perhaps I have only myself and JWB to blame. I've always said that man is dangerous. In any event, this is what happens when your favorite PVCs COS. That's way too many acronyms this morning . . . when my head says WTF?

So you can just forget this it takes a village crap. It doen's take a village. It takes other PCVs. And without them I'd be insane (hey, no rude comments, required). It's sad that so many of my favorites are COSing.

So now my stage is the senior stage. That's scarry. How did it happen, you ask? Je ne aucune idee. That's my favorite French phrase. An LCF would rank me Advanced High if that's all I had to say . . . and if I didn't have to spell it. It's my response to almost every quesiton posed by HCNs, APCDs, CDs, and PCMOs. So a few words of advice to the new PCTs: Je ne aucune idee! Use it not sparingly . . . and then suck it up and deal. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's A Tough Job, But Someone Has To Do It

Life in The B.F. can be tough, no doubt about it. There are days when I think that this kitten has the right idea. Well, perhaps that's a tad extreme. Perhaps. Certainly, life in my village is a prime example of sometimes under conditions of hardship, which is precisely what the PC promised.

For example, here's a list of things that really make me realize how tough my life has become here in The B.F.
  • My lovely white porcelain toilet's flush mechanism is broken. I must lift the tank lid and manually (yea, I say unto thee, manually!) press the flush button. Conditions of hardship, right?
  • Purchasing a month of Internet service only to find that the cell tower is broken and I'll be unable to download iTunes. Don't you hate that?
  • Gigantic, albeit slow-moving flies landing on my nose while I read in bed with my headlight. I’ve had no overhead light in my bedroom since last December and it won't be repaired until this weekend. So I haven't been able to watch movies in bed for eight (8) months! Quel dommage.
  • The fact that my Sonicare Toothbrush won’t hold a charge for more than a week.
  • The fact that my Clarisonic facial brush needs a new brush-head. Talk about conditions of hardship!
  • Waking in the night to head for the latrine, only to find that a dozen tiny baby lizards are having a party in my salon . . . without me, and without bringing a new bottle of vodka.
  • Inability to find the emergency pack of cigarettes, which I hid in my hut and then forgot the hiding place. Freaky scary!
  • Running out of new 30Rock episodes to occupy my evenings.
These are but a few of the thousand little things that make me the poster-child for hardship-living. You understand, right? What?! You don't have a porcelain toilet in a private outdoor room . . . shaded, covered, and with a running water shower? Hmm. Well don't complain that the PC doesn't make good on its promises: Sometimes under conditions of hardship. 

And, PETA, if you’re out there, no kittens were harmed during the posting of this blog . . . though we cannot say as much for the kittens in The B.F. . . . so suck it up and deal!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Frustrated Again?

If you find yourself having daily negotiations over leaving your house in the mornings, you are not alone, so, "make a plan," as certain people like to put it. 

If people in your village are draining your emotional and physical energies, don't just avoid them by staying home (they can find you there and then you're really trapped!). Instead, stay in village as long as you can before you think you will lash-out. Once you reach that point your next living allowance should have allotted itself to your account; so leave your village even if you have a Poste or bank there and take out your money somewhere where you can spend it unashamedly. Immediately start spending it on things that actually make you happy for a couple of days. By then interpersonal relationships might be more manageable for another month. 

Repeat until you COS. And Suck it up and deal!